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I love science, home and FREEDOM!

you have wisely located yourself in the focus of the science of Europe. I am held by the cords of love to my family & country, or I should certainly join you. within a few days I shall now bury myself in the groves of Monticello, & become a mere spectator of the passing events. on politics I will say nothing, because I would not implicate you by addressing to you the republican ideas of America, deemed horrible heresies by the royalism of Europe.
To Alexander von Humboldt, March 6, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders needn’t lose their zeal!
German-born Humboldt (1769-1859) shared Jefferson’s passion for exploration and scientific analysis, wrote volumes on a wide variety of subjects, and sent some of them to the President, who proffered his thanks.

If Jefferson were not so loyal to his country and family, he might have joined this eminent scientist in Europe. Instead, he looked forward to immersing himself in all-things- Monticello and becoming an observer of politics rather than a participant. Retirement didn’t lessen his passion for freedom, but he spared Humboldt any “republican ideas of America,” which the non-republican governments of Europe considered “horrible heresies.”

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Hell is behind me, paradise ahead!

… for altho’ I too have written on politics, it is merely as a private individual, which I am now happily become. within two or three days I retire from scenes of difficulty, anxiety & of contending passions to the elysium [paradise] of domestic affections & the irresponsible [not accountable to anyone] direction of my own affairs. safe in port myself, I shall look anxiously at my friends still buffeting the storm, and wish you all safe in port also.
To John Armstrong, March 6, 1809

NOTE: I have excerpted most of Jefferson’s significant correspondence from the first year of each of his two Presidential terms (March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1802 and March 4, 1805 – March 3, 1806) for the most recent blog posts. I will now turn the clock ahead and work from the first year of his retirement, which began March 4, 1809, when James Madison succeeded him as President.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders look forward to retirement!
Armstrong (1758-1843) had been a U.S. Senator from New York and was now America’s ambassador to France. Jefferson wrote about America’s failed embargo, continued conflict involving American ships at sea and the prospect of war, and Napoleon’s attempts to subdue much of Europe. He also thanked Armstrong for acquiring a “dynamometer” for him, a device that measured pulling force, something he had wanted for many years.
He concluded by stressing, thankfully, that his views on politics were now simply as a private individual. Within days, he would leave the non-stop stress of Washington City for peacefulness of Monticello. There he would reside as a ship safely arrived at its final port and hope the same destiny for those he left behind.

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Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

A common foe keeps friends united.

the annihilation of federal opposition has given opportunity to our friends to divide in various parts. a want of concert [unity] here threatens divisions at the fountain head [source]. nor is it on principle, but on measures that the division shews itself. but I fear it will produce separations which will be as prejudicial as they are painful.
To John Minor, March 2, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders appreciate the unifying effect of a strong opposition.
John Minor (1761-1816) was 18 years younger than Jefferson, a Virginia lawyer and Republican. The Federalist majority in Washington had been reversed by the election of 1800 and reduced to an empty shell in 1804. Jefferson lamented an unfortunate result of the Republican ascendency.

Since there was no political opposition to unite against, Republicans were splintering into factions and turning on one another. They weren’t disagreeing on key principles but on “measures,” how to implement those ideas. Not only would friendships be sacrificed over those differences, but prejudices would arise as factions accused one another of bad faith.

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Justice should be just, not harsh.

Whereas Richard Quince Haskins… was convicted before the Circuit Court … of certain misdemeanors in relation to the Post Office [and sentenced] to be publickly whipped, twenty stripes, and be imprisoned and kept at hard labor for the space of three years, pay costs of prosecution, and stand committed ’till sentence be performed: Now therefore be it known that I Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, do hereby for divers good causes … pardon and remit the whipping aforesaid, the remaining part of the judgment aforesaid to be in no manner affected by this pardon and remission.
Pardon for Richard Quince Haskins, March 1, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders set a judicious example.
Haskins was a federal clerk in Boston. The charge was not specified, but he was found guilty. The sentence was a public whipping, three years in prison at hard labor, and restitution.

The President said two out of three was enough. He would serve his time and repay the court. However, justice would not be further served by subjecting Haskins to harsh, physical pain and public humiliation. He pardoned the whipping and let the rest of the sentence stand.

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Leave a comment Posted in Judiciary, Morality Tagged , , , , , , , |

Why I keep my sources confidential

Th: Jefferson presents his respects … & regrets that it is not consistent with the rule he lays down for his own conduct to communicate to them the papers asked for in their note of the 27th. applications to him for office, & information given him as to the character of applicants, he considers as confidential, to be used only for his own government … he suffers these papers to go to no office, but keeps them with the most private of his own in order that those who will assist him with information may be assured they do it with safety …
To Joseph Stanton, March 1, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders apply the rules evenly and without exception.
Stanton, along with Benjamin Howland, asked the President for any information he had gathered on them in regard to their application for employment. Jefferson said no, citing his across-the-board policy. He regarded such information as confidential and kept it under his personal control. Only those with a need-to-know would ever see it.
Jefferson offered to oblige in other matters if it could be done “with propriety,” but he would not break this rule, which he applied in all cases. He closed by assuring Stanton and Howland of his respect.

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Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , |

It is never too late to say thank you.

Some time last summer I recieved … a very elegant walking staff … [but no] indication from what quarter it came … I desired … to trace from what quarter it came … yesterday [I learned] … the favor had come from yourself. I enter into these details to shew how it has happened that I have been so long silent. it is now high time that I make my acknolegements to you for what is certainly the most elegant thing of the kind I have ever seen …
To John F. Oliveira Fernandes, February 28, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Grateful leaders take pains to show their appreciation.
Jefferson did not know who sent the gift of an exotic animal horn walking stick that passed through several hands to come to him at Monticello. He made repeated inquiries as to its source. He finally learned it had come from Fernandes, a Portuguese physician, friend and fellow wine-fancier. For brevity, I deleted involved details of Jefferson’s search, but he was intent on learning the source. Once known, even though months later, he was quick to express his appreciation and explain the delay.

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The peaceful bear must attack once in awhile!

The love of peace which we sincerely feel & profess has begun to produce an opinion in Europe that our government is entirely in Quaker [non-aggressive, non-violent] principles, & will turn the left cheek when the right has been smitten. this opinion must be corrected when just occasion arises, or we shall become the plunder of all nations.
To Thomas Cooper, February 18, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders know when to do the unexpected.
Thomas Jefferson appreciated America’s geography, separated by an ocean from its often-warring European neighbors. Far more often than not, it allowed his country to stay out of their conflicts. He also realized that non-intervention was creating the opinion abroad that America would not get involved, regardless, even if provoked. If that were true, America would become the victim of all nations.

The President wanted the opportune time, a “just occasion,” for the peaceful American bear to take a judicious swat at its neighbors, to show them how wrong they were.

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Leave a comment Posted in Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Tagged , , , , , , , |

Get the MAIN thing first. Details will follow.

Considering that the important thing is to get the militia classed so that we may get at the young for a year’s service at a time, and that training may be supplied after they are called out, I think we may give up every part of the bill which respects training & arming. let us once get possession of the principle, & future Congresses will train & arm. in this way we get rid of all those enemies to the bill to whom different details would be objectionable.
To General Henry Dearborn, December 31, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strategic leaders leave tactics to be sorted out later.
Dearborn (1751-1829) was involved in America’s military affairs for much of his life. He was President Jefferson’s Secretary of War through both administrations.

Jefferson was a strong proponent of using militias for immediate crises and raising a regular army only if needed for prolonged engagements. To make the militia more effective, he favored classifying the type of temporary service required by age, requiring longer terms of service from younger, single men. Congress was considering not only classification-by-age but how the militia would be armed and trained. There was much for Congress to argue about.

The President knew the main issue was getting the classification. Arguments over arming and training threatened to derail the essential principle. He asked his general to stick with the one main goal. Once that principle was established, future Congresses would settle the lesser issues of arming and training. Focusing on the main thing eliminated the enemies who wanted to major in the minors and defeat the entire proposition.

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Let others speak first. I must keep an open mind.

I do not feel myself free to answer the question you propose. it was taken up by the Senate at the last session: it may be again at this session, and may come to me from one or both houses on an official form. I ought therefore to reserve myself for a free opinion, after I may have heard what is to be said on both sides. at the same time I will freely acknolege I had rather see healing salves applied than the Caustic or knife. but I sufficiently know how hard it is to reconcile ‘the foes who once were friends’.
To Thomas Leiper, December 29, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders would rather heal a division than make it wider.
Leiper (1745-1825) was a Philadelphia businessman, tobacco merchant, civic and political leader, friend of and one-time landlord to Thomas Jefferson. He asked the President’s opinion on the wisdom of his (Leiper’s) seeking indictments against four lawyers who may have acted in a treasonous fashion.

Jefferson declined an opinion, not on merits of the case but on principle. Congress had wrestled with this question before and may do so again. If they referred the matter to him, he wanted to have an open mind. Only then would he consider both sides and make a decision.

In closing, he stressed another principle, preferring to reconcile former friends rather than punish them, but acknowledged how difficult that could be.

As an aside, Leiper is credited with building the first railway in America. In 1809, he laid two rails from his quarry to a canal 3/4 of a mile away. An ox pulled a cart filled with stone from the quarry to where it could be loaded onto a barge for Philadelphia.

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Why sell a slave? I want to buy more.

Being now endeavoring to purchase young & able negro men for my own works, it is exactly counter to these views to sell Brown to you as proposed in your letter. however, always willing to indulge connections seriously formed by those people where it can be done reasonably, I shall consent, however reluctantly to sell him to you.
To John Jordan, December 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders care for the personal lives of those in their employ.
John Jordan was a bricklayer hired to work at Monticello. Brown Colbert, one of Jefferson’s slaves (or servants, as he called them) was married to one of Jordan’s slaves. Jordan was preparing to move away. Brown wanted Jordan to buy him from Jefferson, so he wouldn’t be separated from his wife. Jordan wrote to Jefferson, asking if he would sell Brown and at what price.

Jefferson was in the market to buy more slaves. Brown was young, of good character and a skilled blacksmith. Jefferson was most reluctant to part with him. But he was even more reluctant to separate the married couple. Young, unskilled slaves of good character would bring $500. Jefferson asked an additional $100 for Brown, citing his training.

Subsequently, Jordan declined the purchase because of the higher price, as he could make no use of Brown’s blacksmithing skill. Jefferson then agreed to the sale for $500.

According to Monticello’s web site, Brown Colbert remained with Jordan until a colonization society purchased his family’s freedom. The Colbert family emigrated to Liberia, Africa, in 1833 where they all died of disease within a few months.

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